The best – and less – of the iconic Italian fashion designer’s vast portfolio.
Hitting his stride and launching his own label in the 1970s, renowned fashion designer Giorgio Armani has built one of the largest and most successful fashion businesses on the planet. Following the usual corporate growth path trodden by most designers and fashion houses since the 1960s, the brand has been expanded into a portfolio of spinoffs and diffusion lines to accompany the signature line, both expanding access to aspirational buyers and providing specific lanes to pursue creative exercises, through a mixture of in-house undertakings and licensing agreements.
With so many different lines and levels of quality, it’s no wonder that many people get confused when trying to determine which Armani products are the best. Below are examples of the labels found on the various Armani brands and diffusion lines throughout time, manufacturers who have made garments for each line, and brief descriptions of where the brand sits in a hierarchy of quality.
This article will be updated continually over time as more information on the history of each line comes to light.
Black Label (also billed as Borgo, Borgonuovo 21)
The longest standing label – since Armani’s brand inception in 1975 – which depicts the strongest Armani pedigree, the pieces developed for this self-titled line command the most of the designer’s personal attention. The writing of Borgonuovo 21 on the label refers to the Armani headquarters building at 21 via Borgonuovo in Milan.
The attention to detail in making these pieces tends to be a step above those of other labels, though the manufacturer was often the same as that responsible for other diffusion lines within the Armani portfolio. Cuts and styles tend to be the most interesting of any line within the portfolio, and it usually commands a higher price on the used market. The construction and fabric quality is generally good for a designer label, and it tends to be the most sought after.
The first manufacturers used for black label products wereGruppo GFT (who also made for Valentino and Ungaro at the time), with whom Armani signed a manufacturing deal in 1978. Post-GFT manufacturers have included Vestimenta SpA (starting in 2001 and ending in 2006) and Ittierre SpA. Some tags may have the manufacturer listed as GAO SpA – short for Giorgio Armani Operations – which denotes production that has occurred in-house rather than having been contracted out.
A made-to-measure tailoring service has also existed under the Armani black label since 2006, which is reportedly made by Zegna.
Armani Collezioni (previously styled as Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni)
Launched in 1979, Collezioni was long the mainstay line of the Armani family, containing a range of staples and basics that made up much of the brand’s offerings until early 2018. Given the line’s everyday focus, the make quality is more ordinary than the premium offering and the clothes offered distill the creativity exercised in the higher levels into more pedestrian appeal. It’s rumoured that Armani himself hasn’t had a direct hand in designing for this line in many years. This being said, the vast Armani Collezioni archives have served up some incredible pieces over the years and the signature Armani touch runs strong within the brand’s veins – and the make quality of the garments is usually similar or only marginally less than for those in the black label line.
Like the black label line, Collezioni garments were originally made by Gruppo GFT (with tags styled ‘Le Collezioni’), though since then Collezioni pieces have been manufactured mostly by Confezione di Matelica SpA (billed as Conf. di Matelica on the size/composition tags). The Collezioni line was discontinued, its offerings to be folded into the black label, Emporio and Armani Exchange lines in Spring 2018.
Launched in 1981 and trading continuously to this day, Emporio Armani was originally billed as the diffusion line appealing to younger audiences, as an entry level alternative to the flagship black label. Over the years it’s morphed into a trend-conscious, fashion forward alternative that has leaned strongly into sportswear and athleisure over the last decade with entries such as EA7. In 2018, the line was expanded as elements of Armani Collezioni and Armani Jeans were consolidated into it.
Since the restructure, the Emporio range now encompasses the full spectrum of formality in clothing, ranging from tailored suits to casual staples and athleisure wear.
With Emporio Armani’s vast range of goods, several manufacturers have made for the line; the likes of Vestimenta, SiminT, and the in-house firm GAO can all be seen on the tags of Armani garments new and old.
Mani by Giorgio Armani
Launched in 1979 alongside Armani Collezioni, Mani was a low-end diffusion line focussed more on the entry level buyer. Its pieces were also made by Gruppo GFT during the era in which GFT manufactured most of the garments in the Armani portfolio, though Mani branded pieces were made quite cheaply to fit within the low price point. As such, Mani branded clothing has become somewhat of a landmine on the vintage market; with the recent explosion of interest in vintage Armani across the fashion world, many sellers are trying to command a price premium on Mani products, either unaware of the line’s downmarket positioning or simply choosing not to disclose it. It’s worth avoiding Mani if seeking secondhand Armani; Mani is to Giorgio Armani as the Ralph Lauren for Dillard’s line is to the Ralph Lauren umbrella.
Information on the exact shuttering date of Mani is hard to come by. It seems to have been quietly shuttered, and garments bearing the Mani label had disappeared completely even from dead-stock discount shops by the mid-2000s.
Launched in 1991 as a licensing and distribution deal with SiminT SpA and not wholly owned by the Armani Group until 2014, Armani Exchange was an attempt to appeal to the next generation of young buyers for whom Emporio Armani would now risk appearing too old. It consisted of more casual clothing manufactured cheaply; Armani Exchange can be considered as the fast fashion label within the Armani group of brands.
The licensing agreement for manufacturing and distribution changed hands in the mid 1990s, when SiminT chose to cut their losses on what had thus far been an unprofitable venture in making A/X, and sold the rights to Singapore firm Ong Beng Seng. The Armani Exchange line was shaped up and turned into a successful enterprise, continuing as a licensee arrangement until 2014 when it was brought in-house via the acquisition of 100% ownership. The line went on to survive the 2018 restructuring of the Armani group; some of the more casual offerings from Armani Collezioni and Armani Jeans were folded into it.
Launched in 1981 alongside Emporio Armani, Armani Jeans was the denim and casual wear diffusion line within the Armani portfolio. It operated for many years with garments manufactured by SiminT SpA, the makers who would later spearhead the launch of Armani Exchange via license in the early 1990s (although some Armani Jeans products have also been made by Vestimenta SpA, particularly around the turn of the millennium). There is a trove of interesting vintage denim and streetwear to see in the Armani Jeans archives, though plenty of everyday clothing also bears the label. The quality of craft is generally pretty good for what it is, so secondhand shoppers can score some solid deals on this line if prepared to do some sifting.
Giorgio Armani Cravatte
Armani ties have been sold under a number of lines over the years, though the most common label in earlier times was Giorgio Armani Cravatte. Armani ties have also been sold under the black label, Armani Collezioni and Emporio lines, as well as simply being labelled with the designer’s name. Armani’s ties are celebrated for unique designs, frequently referencing art deco inspirations, and eye-catching experimentations with silks and synthetics.
The construction method used for Armani ties has varied over the years depending on industry trends, though as a rule of thumb, older ties bearing the Giorgio Armani Cravatte label tend to be very well made with a thin interlining that allows for a beautiful knot. Most of the old ones are quite tapered, so even a tie of 9cm or 10cm width will still make a relatively narrow knot that sits well under all manner of collar styles. Newer Armani ties, particularly those bearing the Armani Collezioni brand, often have a thicker interlining resulting in a thicker knot (though they thankfully haven’t lost the quality of construction).
Regardless of the label on the tie, all Armani ties are manufactured by Italian company Intai, a firm in which the Armani group acquired a controlling interest during 1990.
A long, rich history of successful collections means that Giorgio Armani products are widely available on the new and used markets, making it somewhat easy to access a piece of the brand’s history. Whether it be a vintage bargain or a premium-priced made to measure suit, you’ll now be a little more informed as to what you’re buying. Happy shopping!
2 thoughts on “A guide to Giorgio Armani men’s clothing brands and diffusion lines, vintage and contemporary”
I purchased an Armani Jeans blazer from Goodwill. It is a type of tweed consisting of wool 85/rayon 35. Simon TSpA. Made in Hong Kong, Durini M 24 Milano. It is three button. Ventless rear. Two flap pockets on the outside. It is a bit over sized XL. Just right for wearing with a Shetland sweater.
Probably 1980s if made in HK. Enjoy!